30 August 2017

The Weapons of Sci-Fi: The BLASTER

On the hips and in the hands of some of the most iconic characters in science fiction are these large-framed handguns that blur the line between the far future and the Old American West. When discharged, these weapons send a bolt of killer light and energy towards their enemies. These weapons are the "blasters" and they populate all media forms of science fiction since the introduction of the word into the general sci-fi lexicography in 1925, but their more accepted form came after 1977. In this latest entry into The Weapons of Sci-Fi, FWS will be exploring and explaining the most and celebrated type of sci-fi weaponry, the blaster.  

What is an "Blaster"?

In general, the term "blaster" refers to an large-framed handheld weapon similar in style and layout to a conventional semi-automatic pistol, revolver, or even a more futuristic "ray gun" type. The majority of science fiction blasters are directed energy of various types, but they can be kinetic energy as well. Often, the blaster is seen as a powerful offensive anti-personnel weapon that can blow smoking holes into people, knock them down, or even burn them down to basic atoms with powerful bolts or blasts of energy. The blaster is the weapon-of-choice for heroes, soldiers, villains, space pirates, space western gunslingers, and half-witted scruffy-looking nerf herders.
The term itself was originated by Nictzin Dyalhis, in his April of 1925 short story When the Green Star Waned, published by Weird Tales Magazine, where he calls it an "blastor" and even uses the term "disintegrator" as well. The term was reinforced by Robert Heinlein novella Coventry in 1940. The term would enter into more common usage by sci-fi fans and the general public after the release of Star Wars in 1977 and the term was forever connected to the weapon of Han Solo, despite that many DE weapons in the SW universe are considered "blasters", even the rifles of the Rebel Alliance troopers and the Stormtrooper carbines.

What is the Difference between an "Blaster" and an "Ray Gun"?
Terminology is a tricky thing in science fiction, especially its early days. Most directed energy weapons seen in the early days of sci-fi were created weaponry that was fundamentally differently than the slug-throwers of today. This was achieved via directed energy beams being emitted from a hand weapon that was stylistically very different from most modern handguns. For generations of early sci-fi fans and the general public, these future DEW pistols were "ray guns". This term predates the term "blaster" by nearly a decade with "ray gun" being used for the first time 1917, and "blaster" in 1925. But what is the difference between the two?
To me, ray guns are pulp sci-fi weapons that are more outlandish looking with non-realistic design featuring dish-like emitters and firing beams. Their destructive power ranges all over the map with some examples being able to burn you down into ash and smoke. In some ways, the Star Trek classic phaser from the original series and the laser pistols from "The Cage" are a prime example of an ray gun type design. Blasters were more defined by Han Solo's DL-44, and were more akin to Old Western revolvers than Spaceman Spiff's ray gun sidearm.
Blasters are larger, heavier, more gun-like future DEWs firing violent bolts of light and energy. These bright blasts of energy punch into their targets with a nearly kinetic force instead of frying or burning of the Ray Gun beams. Also, blasters were more tools of warfare, law enforcement, and space bar brawls than the ray gun being wielded by explorers, astronauts, and space ranger heroes. In more recent sci-fi, the blaster reigns supreme over the classic/retro ray gun. That is where the current status of the ray gun lives...in retro sci-fi works, while the blaster is still being used.

What are Blasters so Popular in Sci-Fi?
Many of the classic heroes of science fiction have a blaster strapped to their hips especially after the emergence of Star Wars, and you have to wonder why is the blaster such a popular weapon in science fiction? The idea of an hero using an handgun over an assault rifle is rooted in both the nature of handguns and the gunslingers of the Old American West. Handguns are mostly a weapon of defense in close quarters situations and most handgun engagements are between 3-12 yards or they are a secondary, used when the primary weapon goes down. While any weapon takes skill to fire accurately, it is even more so with pistols, especially in CQC engagements.
Witnessing John Wick, John McClane, or Jack Bauer end the lives of their targets with supreme Samurai-like pistol skills is ingrained into us as an audience as the mark of the elite ass kicker due to the difficulty of achieving these feats in the real world. When I used to take to the paintball field with my Tiberius T8 pistol, many people commented on how badass it was that I had a pistol, when to me it was about being ready for when my carbine ran out of gas...never be weaponless, my friends.
This commonly held concept goes back to the Dragoon cavalrymen, pirates, and the gunfighters of the Old West. Pistols are short-range weapons that were not issued to every common foot soldier. Often, they were issued to soldiers that wielded heavier weapons or soldiers, like the Dragoons, that were the cavalry. This was due to the maneuverability of the pistol over the common flintlock rifles of the day during the 17th and 18th centuries. It was from there that pistol and their users earned a level of respect as tools of the more elite soldiers. It also helped that many pirates used pistols in ship boarding operations and that most officers carried them as well. The handgun entered into the hands of the common man when Samuel Colt developed his six-shot revolver in 1836,  the world of personal firearms altered forever and the revolvers of Colt were bestowed the title of "the weapon that won the West". Unlike many of the rifles of the time, the Colt revolver and other handguns like it, could fire multiple times prior to being reloaded, and it helped the prestige of these weapons when larger-than-life figures used them in street gunfights and standoffs. The image of gunfighters quick drawing was intoxicating to the public, and these duels were romanticized and the best of these gunslingers were immortalized.    
Due to the revolving cylinder weapons technology, the time period, the setting of conquering a new frontier, the nature of these standoffs along with the public's appetite to consumer stories about these gunfighters, the tool of the trade was cemented into the global consciousness for all time. In some ways, the Colt Revolver of the gunslinger was like the Katana of the Ronin/Samurai of the Feudal Japan era. Both being worn by an individual marked them as an badass and one not to be fucked with. I grew up with the Old Western movies, a father who loved revolvers, and watching Samurai movies on my own, so I completely understand and celebrate the romantic element of the era, the people, and the tools of the trade. That idea of an individual being skilled enough to take down their target with a weapon designed for close quarters combat translated into the heroes and villains of our stories being seen with a pistol on their hip to symbolize their skill level status. It also assisted the mythos of the badass-with-a-pistol that the Old West film and the stars were incredibly popular around the world with heroes like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and the Lone Ranger adding their image to the tradition. Even today, the fact that Special Operations operators are allowed to carry pistols as reinforced this mindset that the elite, whether they are cowboys or DELTA Operators, carry pistols.
So, when science fiction tales started to become popular, the idea of space guns that did not fire projectiles but beams was a bedrock of the new genre and to separate this new space age from today, these beam weapons were not rifles in most cases, but funky, futuristic pistols that looked nothing like current handguns, despite the influence from Westerns. Again, the link between hero of any time period was married up to an pistol became further entrenched as tradition. That tradition was carried onward into the soundless void with space heroes like Han Solo, Spike Spiegel, Apollo, Ronon, and Buck Rogers.

What Do Those Blasters' Fire?
Despite the vast number of examples of blasters seen in science fiction, there is no single type of lethal energy that the science fiction blaster fires. It can be kinetic energy or directed energy, however, most common form of the blaster is as an directed energy weapon. The actor Harrison Ford has wielded two of the most important blasters in sci-fi cinema: the PK-D M2019 from BLADE RUNNER and the DL-44 from Star Wars. The M2019 Detective Special is rumored to fire a .44 magnum bullet and the DL-44 heavy blaster pistol fired an cohesive burst of powerful light.
The DEW blasters of science fiction, of which, are the most popular, are often are cited as firing plasma or particle bolts of great power and impact. Older blasters of sci-fi were said to have fired laser bolts. KEW blasters greatly range from Gauss projectiles, Railgun rounds, or even chemically propelled larger pistol rounds, like .44, .454, .45ACP, and even .50. These often are shown as revolver-like large frame hand cannons. Another unique ammunition type featured in some blasters is rocket propelled projectiles (AKA: Gyrojet).

Are There Real-World/Real-Steel Blasters?
Yes and no. There is no real-steel handgun that is marketed and sold as an "blaster" per say. Even the real-world laser and particle DEWs are not anything close to the blasters of science fiction. However, if we are to use the broad FWS definition for the sci-fi blaster, than we could make a case for some real-steel handguns meeting the definition of an sci-fi blaster. These would be the larger frame handguns that are designed to be of an physical presence over most normal sized pistols. They would fire larger caliber pistol rounds and be more "offensive" in nature over the more "defensive" nature of most pistols (this is subjective terminology). Interestly enough, some of these real-steel blaster-like pistols are used in sci-fi works to stand in as blasters, like the iconic misfit: the Desert Eagle handgun.
Anyways, there are several real-steel pistols that I think are close to the sci-fi blaster: the Magnum Research Desert Eagle in the .44 and .50 calibers, the Taurus Judge, the MBA Gryojet pistol, the H&K Mark 23 SOCOM .45ACP Offensive Handgun, and the Mateba Autorevolver. My reasoning for these weapons being selecting is that they were either have an unique "futuristic" feature, that they are powerful handguns designed to deliver maximum damage in one or two rounds, and they are more offensive in nature. The failed Mark 23 SOCOM pistol designed for USSOCOM was created around that very concept of being an offensive handgun rather than an defensive one (I would carry one of these if I had been a SEAL). I've fired many of these, and I can tell you that having an .50 Action Express Desert Eagle in your hand makes you feel like Han Solo!

Science Fiction and the Blaster
Since the foundation of the genre of science fiction, there has been attempt to have characters wielding the next generation of weaponry over the real-world slug throwers. That meant that these futuristic weapons, mostly pistol-like, were directed energy and took on the general-use names of "ray guns", "disintegrator", and "heat ray". Early sci-fi heroes like Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and Tom Corbett wielded futuristic energy sidearms like Buck Rogers' own XZ-38 disintegrator. These weapons were linked in some ways to revolvers of the American Old West, but they represented the next step in the technology evolution with space age cool names that fit within the pulp science fiction magazines of the day. During those early days of the genre, the term "blaster" was first used in an 1925 story in Weird Tales Magazine: "When the Green Star Waned" by  Nictzin Dyalhis. This term was picked up and used by other authors, including Isaac Asimov for Caves of Steel, adding it to the common lexicology of science fiction, but is it wasn't until the 1970's that the term "blaster" was statistically separated from other common sci-fi weaponry terms and became a rockstar.
Most sci-fi weaponry designs at the time varied, but the majority of them were fantasifull unrealistic design with all manner of rings, discs, colors, and shapes with little attention being paid to the reality of actual firearms or the real science behind directed energy weapons. Even the original Star Trek series Phaser was an inheritor of those ray gun designs instead of an actually firearm. That all changed in 1977 when the world witness Star Wars and the iconic space pirate gunslinger Han Solo and his trusty BlasTech DL-44 blaster at his side. Time and time again, FWS restates just how massive the impact of the original Star Wars film was on the whole of science fiction and how it altered everything from that point onward. This includes sci-fi weaponry and the term "blaster". From that point onward, the term "blaster" was forever imprinted on the general public, fans, creators, and the toy industry that Han Solo's sidearm was the new standard and symbol for all of blasters to follow. After this, science fiction cover art, video games, tv shows, movies, animation, music videos, and even toys all patterned their blasters after the DL-44 and other Star Wars blaster pistols.
On top of this of this trend, there was return of the revolver to science fiction with Rick Deckard's android retiring blaster/revolver from 1982's BLADE RUNNER ushering in this trend that fused the sci-fi blaster with the old-school wheelgun of the Old West gunslinger. It seems that Harrison Ford weapons of choice altered science fiction! From this point on, the trend of large framed sci-fi sidearms was established and took firm hold that continues onward until today with works like Firefly, Farscape, and Destiny. However, there is another avenue for the blaster to make inroads into the realm of science fiction and general society: toys.
Since the early days of science fiction, the toy industry has used the popularity of the genre to market futuristic ray gun toys that embraced all of the standard style tropes of these weapons of the time period. Buck Rogers' atomic pistols was put into the hands of boys back in the mid-1930's by the Daisy and were manufactured in various metal finishes and this was the first appearance of space gun toys. During the Space Race of the Cold War, there was a rush of popularity of sci-fi and space themed toys. This the market that fostered a number of space ray gun toys to made and put into the hands of future creators of science fiction...including George Lucas. When these kids of the Space Race craze grew up and began creating their own brand of science fiction, the memories of their space heroes having a trusty ray gun by their side influence the development of the modern sci-fi blaster.
In addition to the space gun toys of the era, there was also the marketing of Cowboy revolver toy guns to kids. These two separate influences of the Old West gunslinger and the space hero created the blaster as we know it. When Stars Wars erupted onto silver screens in 1977, Kenner toys was ready with their iconic and transformative toyline that included an Han Solo laser pistol. Kids of my generation soon where channeling their inner space pirate with their own plastic-fantastic DL-44 blaster. This fueled other blaster toys to be released throughout the 1980's that ranged from knockoffs to IR emitters like the Photon phaser.
During the 1980's, you could stroll down the toy gun aisle and take in a number of sci-fi blasters that fired caps, battery-powered lights and sounds, water, plastic balls, and even invisible beams of light. Even today, I can walk down a Target toy aisle and see Nerf blaster-like toy guns and Star Lord's blasters all feeding another generation on the traditional blaster. It's was not just confined to traditional toys. You can purchase Paintball/Airsoft blaster-like sidearms or even high quality copies of your favorite sci-fi blaster for display/wish fulfillment/cosplay needs. When you take to a laser tag center, you will be armed with a IR blaster like weapon. These toys, whatever the era, are one of the most popular vectors of bring new blasters lovers into the fold and forge new creators that will include blasters in their future works.  


The BlasTech Industries  DL-44 Heavy Blaster Pistol from the Star Wars Universe

This is the weapon that altered the term "blaster" for the general public as well as science fiction as a whole. Many of us that grew up with the original trilogy during their original theatrical release owned the toy versions of these and all of us wanted have a blaster on our hips during playtime. It very much helped that one of the coolest sci-fi movie characters wielded the iconic DL-44 blaster. Under the sci-fi prop covering, the DL-44 was like many of the original trilogy weaponry Star Wars, sci-fi stylized retrofitted World War One and Two weaponry. In the case of Han Solo's iconic handcannon was an Mauser C96 7.63x25mm "broomhandle" handgun that had been used in the 1967 film The Naked Runner with a custom scope from the 1972 film Sitting Target. All three of the films had the same company supplying the weapons: Bapty & Company Armours. In the SW universe, the DL-44 heavy blaster pistol was built by the massive firearms company BlasTech that constructed military and civilian arms. Both sides of the Galactic Civil War carried BlasTech weaponry. The DL-44 was not marketed to military customers nor standard law enforcement agencies due to massive power output that caused overheating . Most DL-44s were the tools of settlers, smugglers, space pirates, private military contractors, and anyone needing a powerful offensive armor-cutting sidearm.
When Han Solo joined the Alliance after the Battle of Yavin IV, the weapon gained popularity among Rebel Alliance troopers, pilots, and SpecOps units...because Han Solo is just so damned cool and the weapon could ram through standard Stormtrooper armor on the first hit. I always found it interesting that Luke Skywalker carried an DL-44 in TESB along with an lightsaber, showing his duality: soldier and Jedi. In the recent Star Wars: Battlefront, the DL-44 is a beast at close range and can result in blaster duels ending quickly. Despite the vast number of blasters in science fiction, Han Solo's DL-44 is often patient zero for this type of sci-fi weapon.

The Colonial Warriors DE Sidearm Blaster from the Classic Battlestar Galactica
The classic BSG has been part of my life since I was two watching its initial run broadcast run. After the show was cancelled, it would be rerun throughout my life, and while was never a big classic Battlestar Galactica fan, I respected the look, some of the story, and the design of the spacecraft. One element of the Colonial Warrior that I always liked besides the leather jacket they wore, is there blaster sidearm. While the weapon is referred to as an "laser", it is likely an plasma-based DEW and its power output is about 315 kilowatts with unknown capacity. From the original costume, the blaster is fed from small brass-colored "recharging" cylinders hanging from a Colonial Warrior belt. From my memory, the blasters were never reloaded on-screen.
One of the cool elements of the Colonial Warrior blaster was how its directed energy bolts are featured. Throughout much of the series, the "bolt" is not visible save for the emitter muzzle flash and the impact of directed energy bolt, which is directly contrary to the Star Wars blasters and the Star Trek phasers and even the similar Buck Rogers in the 25th century  TV show. When the show ended after one season, the blaster went with it. From an thread on therpf.com, I discovered that the prop was made from fiberglass to form the shell with an clear acrylic shower head to form an clear emitter barrel assembly that used an aircraft strobe light that ran off of batteries for the DE burst. Today, you can buy prop kits of the Colonial Warrior blaster and see them in cosplay circles. In the rebooted 2003 series, there was an attempt to bridge the original blaster and the BLADE RUNNER PK-D detective special pistol into a new design for the new series...it lasted one season. I've always wanted one for the FWS offices. One day...  

The Colonial Handgun/Revolver from the Rebooted BSG universe
When the BSG universe was rebooted and reimagined in 2003, the weapon in the hands of the colonial military was a hybrid of two design wrapped around an Smith & Wesson Model 686 .357 magnum revolver with an additional underslung mounted barrel for micro-grenades, and many sites framed along the same lines as the LeMat Revolver. Drawing inspiration from the original Colonial Warrior blaster and Decker's detective special from BLADE RUNNER, the new Colonial handgun was to be the main weapon of the show....it didn't last long though. The show would use the new design for the first season when it was replaced by an FN FiveSeven 5.7x28mm handgun fitted with an micro grenade launcher and the old design would make appearances in flashbacks and in 2012's Blood & Chrome. 
Why was the colonial revolver discounted? It was a pain in the ass to fire blanks through and reload. Due to the weapon being an S&W revolver, the sci-fi prop housing had to be nearly removed to reload the blanks or fix any issues. This took time and money away from the production and since they were already using the FN P90, the production just added the complementary pistol to ease the burden on the production staff and the actors. The main picture above is of an airsoft copy of the Colonial sidearm fitted around an revolver, and it seems if they could do it than why not the BSG prop-masters? Either way, the original Colonial handgun was interesting KEW blaster design.  

The 2019 PK-D .44 Detective Special from the BLADE RUNNER Universe
One of the most mysterious and compelling blasters in all of sci-fi cinema history is handgun that skinjob hunter Rick Deckard uses in 1982's BLADE RUNNER. Enchanting fans is the overall design of the world and the universe of the film, making this a fan favorite that has endured since the film premiered in 1982. Since then, this heavy framed weapon as gone on to inspire us and fork over our cash on replicas. Unlike many of blasters of the time, it is kinetic energy weapon, it is featured in several close up shots, yet it has no official name. Fans and prop/model makers had forged many unique monikers for "the blaster":  "the M2019 Detective Special", and "the PK-D”. Another unknown element is what the PK-D fires? 
Given that blank-firing real-steel weapon under the sci-fi prop cover is a Carter Arms Bulldog .44 magnum, we are going to assume that the Blade Runner issued handgun is an futuristic revolver that fires .44 magnum rounds...which would be a good round for stopping superhuman androids.  This idea has been picked up by prop/firearms/airsoft makers who incorporate a .44 revolver into their designs. The original prop that once was owned by Jeff Walker was sold in 2012 for $275,000. 
The original LAPD 2019 service gun design is back in the hands of Harrison Ford for the upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2049 sequel along with an upgraded version in the hands of the new Rep-Det Ryan Gosling, the LAPD 2049 blaster that is a nice design that seems to flow organically as an evolutionary step from the 2019 model. We shall learn more about the reappearance of these iconic weapons when the new film comes out in a few months. 
If you want to know more...then check out my massively in-depth article on the weapon of BLADE RUNNER

The Peacekeeper Pulse Pistol from the Farscape Universe
One of my big sci-fi regrets is not watching Farscape and FWS does not cover it enough, but I knew when it came time to discuss blasters, we had to cover the Peacekeeper pulse pistol!  Besides the rather cool alien design, one of the most unique elements about the Pulse Pistol is that it is powered by an organic source: Chakan oil from the Tannot root. Mixed with chemicals, the Tannot root is broken down and made into organic explosive oil that charges an DEW for about 500-600 shots of red or yellow energy bolts in both lethal and less-than-lethal. One of these common Peacekeeper pulse pistols was owned by John Crichton and named “Winona”. The prop for the show came in at about 8 ½ inches and could have an attached laser sight.

The AGL Arms Factory .45 Long Colt Revolvers of the Trigun Unvierse

A few years ago, FWS covered the return of Sci-Fi Revolvers and I missed the Long Colt revolver from Trigun and there is seemingly no end to the comments I get reminding me that I did indeed miss one of the most iconic revolver in all of sci-fi. It will not be missed here. Two AGL Arms Long Colt .45 Revolvers are seen on planet Gunsmoke in the Delta Tri system in the hands of the humanoid plants Knives and Vash. These long-barreled break-open revolvers house plant material to make otherworldly and bond them to Knives and Vash, who referred to the weapons as “our brothers”. These custom made revolvers fired a 20th century “Long Colt .45” cartridge which is an revolver/rifle round and is commonly seen in the Taurus Judge revolver, but the damage is projected as much more in the series than a standard Long Colt .45. These anime revolvers are not based a single real-steel, but elements of the S&W Schofield revolver and the Mateba 2006m auto-revolver. Given the Space Western setting of Trigun, the appearance of these fanasty revolvers is more to do with the Western tradition than sci-fi blaster…but this unique revolver needed to be finally discussed. 

The Imperium Plasma Pistol from the Warhammer 40k Universe
When most think of weaponry from the grimdark universe of 40K, it is often the Bolter or some far-future melee weapon. While there bolter pistols, they fall more in the assault pistol or machine pistol classification rather than an blaster. However, there is the Imperium plasma pistol that could be considered an blaster: the violent plasma pistol for the Imperium of Man. Carried by officers in the Space Marine Chapters and the Imperial Guard, it is a mark of an elite warrior, but have some drawbacks that can make them dangerous to the user as well as the enemy given that the baster uses an nuclear reactor to generate the superheated gas to generate plasma. This can cause overheating and reloading issues, but the trade off is an heavy damage weapon that has a psychological fear factor even to the user! I mean the weapon would melt your enemies, burn off your hand, or cook off and kill you and your buddies!

The General Arms LawGiver Pistols from the Judge Dredd Universe
One of the iconic sci-fi weapons is the Street Judges' LawGiver pistol that attempted to bring law and order to the mean streets of Mega City One via the Street Judges. There several forms of the weapon that have been seen in comics and the films that all have become icons of sci-fi weaponry in their own right. While the LawGiver alters from different interpretations, they all have a security feature that prevents unauthorized personnel from using the weapon via electronic shock that can kill or even a self-destruct. FWS will cover the LawGiver in more detail in its own The Weapons of Sci-Fi blogpost in the near future.
The original General Arms Mk. I LawGiver semi-automatic pistol in the comics is smaller, more compact weapon with extended skinny barrel and the four double magazines and selector-wheel for seven ammunition types with 96 bullets total. It featured a scope system and heat-seeking bullet-missiles that fired from the barrel and a strobe light for stun effect. The Mk. I gave way to the Mk. II in 2120 AD that was more beefy weapon and close to an blaster...but it wasn't until the misguided 1995 film that we saw the LawGiver take on a more conventional sci-fi blaster look. The Mk. II was an improvement for doling out street justice that fired six ammunition types from an box magazine in both semi and full automatic. To select the various ammunition types, voice or button via the selector wheel could be used. Some munition was attached to the barrel along with an sound suppressor. Since its introduction, the Mk. II has been seen in both the comics to this day and the 2012 film. Are the comic Mk. I and the Mk. II blasters? No, not really, especially the second version that is closer to an assault pistol or machine pistol. When it came time to import Judge Dredd to the big screen in the mid-1990's, we see the more "blaster" type LawGiver.
In the terribly misguided 1995 film starring Sylvester Stallone, the "LawGiver II" is constructed around an Beretta 92FS or an Taurus  PT92 (there is some debate) with an sci-fi shell surrounding the 9mm pistol that featured a series of red lights on either side of the prop gun to add dramatic effect for the selection for the various ammunition and this effect was activated by a squeeze sensor either side of the prop, This selection was made via voice only it seems. Six practical firing prop LawGivers were made for the film along with two that motorized barrels for the "Double Whammy" ammunition type.
This more blaster-like LawGiver II was not the weapon from the comics and fans were not happy with it design it being a good design that has been replicated by fans and websites for sale. When it came time to reboot Judge Dredd, that mistake of the 1995 LawGiver was altered for the more realistic and gritty 2012 Dredd film that featured an improved Mk.II that was very close to the comic. That LawGiver Mk. II was constructed around an Glock 17 that fired seven various types of ammunition in the film. The weapon is seen being reloaded on-screen like a convention pistol, rather than the box magazine at the forward assembly. Hopefully, we see more of the LawGiver in the near future with more Dredd films. 

Star Lord's Quad Blasters from The Guardians of the Galaxy 
One of the most fun sci-fi films released in the 21st century has been The Guardians of the Galaxy films and given how much of the film channels great sci-fi themes and tropes, laser blaster were a must. On the hips of Star Lord were twin dual emitter-shaped  blasters, called “Quad Blasters”. Seen in the cartoon series, toys, recent comics, and the two movies; the Quad Blaster is strongly designed and presented.  To me, the twin barreled M-shaped blasters of Star Lord echoed the Cygnus robotic sentry laser blasters of Disney’s 1979 sci-fi flop Black Hole, but instead of twin laser beams at every trigger pull, Star Lord’s weapons-of-choice use their dual emitters to great effectiveness. Each barrel is controlled via its own trigger and both barrels are able to fired simultaneously . The top barrel fires the lethal option via an plasma bolt while the bottom barrel fires an electric shock blast. When both are fired and it can stun and kill at the same time or affect a stronger target. With its hearty construction, the Quad Blaster frame can be used for melee attacks.

Major Magnum Handgun from 2000AD's Rogue Trooper Comic

2000 AD’s super-soldier comic book Rogue Trooper is an insane, beautiful gem of military science fiction comics. The “hero” of the comic is Rogue Trooper, an genetically engineered super-soldier designed to survive and fight in various hostile environments, like those on Nu-Earth. Bio-Chips allowed for the memories and personalities of the GI Troopers to be stored and placed into new bodies to retain experience and training. To keep these biochips alive and functional, slots were built into various GI Trooper’s equipment, like their weapons. One such weapon picked up by Rogue during his quest was an large framed, multi-barreled pistol designed for the GI program called “Major Magnum”. This was the name of the GI Trooper whose biochip inhabits the pistol, who attempted to Rogue for deserting the army and was even sold to the highest bidder. The weapon itself had 10 types of bullets, micro-missiles, and even less-than-lethal drug darts and was massive platform. I believe that the storyline with the hand cannon was limited and did not enter into Rogue’s standard equipment.

The Laser Blasters of Captain Power and the Soldiers of Tomorrow
In 1987, an bold experiment in merging television and interactivity was attempted in the Military SF live-action/robot apocalypse TV series Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. In the hands of the valiant Cpt. Power team was a host of large frame laser blasters that seem to be Earth military stock post Metal Wars, only Tank carries a heavy blaster rifle and it is only Cpt. Power that carries the gold color blaster to match his armor. Style is important even at the end of the world. There is never much said or explained about these weapons of the 22nd century.
The Dread robotic forces have blasters that fire pinkish bolts, while Power's team fires blueish with another setting allowing for beam for maximum dwelling time. The figures of the TV series were made by Mattel with each action figure coming packed with an laser blaster of various types. There was an more rare Captain Power gold colored blaster pistol, called "the power laser", that, unlike the rest of the toys, did NOT work with the interactive TV signals. Instead, the "power laser" blaster toy was a form of the laser tag games that were popular in 1987. This laser tag blaster had an visible white light that interacted with an sensor target that allowed for three modes of play or classic laser tag with your friends. I am sure how common these were and I never saw them in stores during the toyline's run...but it is cool that the Power Laser was based on Cpt. Power's golden blaster and shared the same design as the action figure as well.

The 1986 Worlds of Wonder Lazer Tag "Starlyte" IR Blaster
One of the "it" Christmas toys of 1986 was Worlds of Wonder's Lazer Tag infrared gaming system that used sensors to detect incoming IR beams that upgraded the time honored game of tag into the future. The game of laser tag itself dated back to the very late 1970's and was popularized by Photon: The Ultimate Game of Planet Earth rental centers that popping up around the country. California-based Worlds of Wonder developed the home-based Lazer Tag system to capitalize on the laser tag craze sweeping the nation with their 1986 system that featured one of my favorite sci-fi blasters of my childhood: the StarLyte pistol.
This sleek, very futuristic looking black IR emitter was powered by six AA batteries that fired an semi-automatic beam of infrared light in 57.6 kHz carrier frequency modulated with an 1.8 kHz signal. This beam could be narrowed and the electronic blast sound effect could be muted for space ninja mode and the StarLyte was even fitted with an red electronic dot sight! While black was the standard color for the StarLytes pistols, WoW did product about 20 white StarLytes for manufacturer's sample and props in sales pitches along with being color study pieces to evaluate which color the final production IR emitters were to be. Only six are known to survive with one being the in Laser Tag Museum. For many of us that lusted after the WoW Lazer Tag home system (I owned two of them after Xmas of '86), the blaster was a much beloved feature of the system and was better designed that Photon "phaser" of both the rental and home market systems.
The StarLyte was heavily used in promotion of the toyline as well as in the lame NBC Saturday morning cartoon series Lazer Tag Academy. In that series that lasted less than 13 episode, the StarLyte was a modular tool of anything the writers could come up with...like an 3010 Swiss Army Knife. Despite the overall quality and design of the WoW Lazer Tag system, the company would not last into the 1990's, fall into bankrupcy due to the Stock Market Crash of 1987 and the cooling off the laser tag fad.  Lazer Tag was sold off to Tiger Electronics, who redesigned the StarLyte pistol to be less gun-like. For me, the black StarLyte pistol was my first blaster and I used it in backyard laser duals with my friends and brother. Even to this day, I want an StarLyte pistol and rifle for the FWS offices as a reminder of my service during the Great Laser War of 1986-1988. If you would like to know more on this economic contest between Photon and Lazer Tag, then click here to read more.

The Visitors' Directed Energy Blaster from the Original V Universe
In 1983, American television network NBC spent $13 million in then money to show the arrival of an alien race, known as the Visitors, coming to Earth promising peace...but it was a lie. V was an outgrown of the popularity of sci-fi after Star Wars and it was a daring piece of television with the Visitors being a race of space lizard Nazis. Encompassing two miniseries and a short-lived TV show, along with an aborted toyline and an DC Comics series, V, was a full-blown franchise for a brief time period.
The primary weapon of the Visitors that did fall into human resistance hands was the interesting designed large framed laser blaster pistol that featured an clear energy chamber tube. In the original V, the laser pistol had a powerful sounding bolt that was presented as a blue bolt fired in a semi-automate fashion. They would be used by both sides of conflict over Earth, but where never seen being reloaded...unless you read the DC comic series...which I did.
In the comic book, Donovan is seen reloading his iconic laser pistol with an small capsule-shaped object that was slipped into an small port on the trigger assembly portion of the DEW. The prop Visitor laser blaster pistol were made in large numbers due to the Visitor shocktroopers carrying both the pistol and rifle, however, the prop itself varied from series-to-series. According to the limited information I have, the laser blasters from the original 1983 V miniseries were better constructed with actual metal parts.
During the second miniseries and the regular series, cheaper materials were used to assembly those blasters. Despite this, all of the original blaster barrels droop down due to some error in the mold itself. The later produced fan Visitor blasters have corrected this error. Like many productions, V used several levels of refinement with their futuristic weapons, with stun models being the bottom and hero being the best. I've read that the weakness of the Visitor blaster is the clear tube that marries the two pieces of the blaster together and it likely the energy chamber/barrier that feeds the lethal DE bolts. With the scale of the production that V ended up being and that several TV series were created resulted in a number of blaster pistols being made and those have found themselves into the hands of collectors today. As a kid, I loved the look of the Visitor laser blaster and desperately wanted one...and I would have gotten one if LJN had been able to bring their aborted toyline to the market. We did get the reptile alien DE pistol in the form of an ARCO produced toy gun that saw limited released under the V brand in the US. Instead, ARCO repackaged their V toy gun kit that allowed the conversion of the base pistol into the full sized rifle into the Matchbox ROBOTECH toyline with a new paint job and packaging. There was an attempt to use these toy dart guns for the 1987 Masters of the Universe film and some of these ARCO toy guns were sold on eBay as screen used V props!

The Neutra-Laser from Bravestarr
When I was ten, there was several Space Western American cartoon series on the airwaves, and both featured laser blasters…some were made into toys.  Bravestarr from 1987 was a story about an 23rd century Native American frontier lawman sent to the colonial world of New Texas to establish and order with his trusty Neutra-Laser.  The show was okay and I never saw many of the toys in stores , but I wanted the over-styled and over-designed Neutra-Laser that nearly faithfully reproduced for the local toy stores. Much like Lazer Tag and Photon, the Mattel  Neutra-Laser fired IR beams to interact with the figures and the playsets.
Then there was Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers that mixed animation Western and Eastern styles with terrible writing that aired around 1986-1987. Much like every other 1980’s cartoon there was an tie-in toyline…but this one never materialized in the American market. Produced by Galoob, who had a number of troubles bring toylines to market (1987 TNG toyline anyone?) never released the figures in the States due to the failure of the series, but they were a limited release international.
Even that released was limited to six figures, all armed with the DE revolver-like blaster seen in the series as the only toy gun in both hero and villain along three Z-100 robotic horses. There were prototypes of the “Six Shooter” DE blasters in both an battery operated light-up  toy gun and a water gun that seemed to mimic the style of the Galaxy Rangers. Pity they were never released.

Eddie's Toon Revolver from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
One of the best and most imaginative of movies of the 1980's was Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and it is one of those films I never want to see touched or remade. In the film, gumshoe detective Eddie must journey into Toontown and given the danger, he has to use a special form of protection: an Toon Gun. This revolver, based on the Smith & Wesson 625JM and was given to Eddie by Yosemite Sam for helping him out in a case. The Dum Dum ammunition were small Toon characters based on Old West characters that cannot simple to hit a target. I just had to include this entry on FWS because when I am ever going to talk about Who Framed Roger Rabbit? here on FWS?

The Legion's Standard Issue HEL-Gun from Alien Legion Series One (1984-1987)
One of the most underrated Military SF comics is Epic Comic's Alien Legion that ran throughout the mid-1980's and early 1990's. While I was an big fan and collector of the series back in the day, and I was into the second series that came out in 1987 that featured better art, more aliens, more guns, and cool stories. The original series that ran from 1984-1987 had the Legion of the three galaxy TOPHAN government carried standard weapons: the High Energy Laser Gun pistol (AKA the HEL-Gun). Yep, every legionnaires in the three galaxies only carried these pistols as their only means of offensive and defensive operations with the HEL-Rifles only making an appearance in the graphic novel..which makes no sense. By the time of the second series that was reworked, there was vast buffet of alien weaponry. The HEL-Gun was sliver pistol that fired an yellow beam blast of great power that was mostly fired from the hip or could be aimed down slights with what looks like an electronic reflex IR slight.

The Imperial Klingon Disruptor Pistol from the Star Trek Universe
I've always felt that the standard Klingon distruptor pistol was more akin to an blaster of sci-fi gunslingers than the Federation phaser, that is why I included it on this list. For over 100 years, the basic Klingon distruptor pistol has been a mainstay of the Klingon Defense Forces, pirates, outlaws, and various traders. Prized for its violent green bolts and rugged design, it was a good choice in bad situations.
The basic shape and style of Klingon pistol/blaster was seen in the classical original series, where the more human looking Klingon warriors used an elaborate designed silver colored disruptor pistol that formed the basic style associated with the proud warrior aliens.
The original series Klingon weaponry was upgraded for the 3rd Trek movie in 1984 by Phil Norwood.
In 2006, Christie's auction house sold one of the screen used disruptor pistols for over $4000 and it gives it size as 17 inches. The lot description informs us that four disruptor pistols were made for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, with one being the hero prop made from solid cast resin and three rubber made for stunts. The disruptor pistol would be redesigned by RAC props' Richard Coyle for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country with one of the goals of the redesign for the alien sidearm to fit better in an holster by mostly altering the muzzle emitter.  It is believed that the redesigned ST VI Klingon pistols were used for other Star Trek productions and the most commonly seen Klingon disruptor. In the sixth Trek film, propmaster Richard Coyle designed a one-off Klingon distruptor "shotgun" pistol with an hand pump section seen in the hands of Brigadier Kerla. There is no real information on why this distruptor was fashioned in this way.

The Earth Defense Directorate Directed Energy Blaster from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

The character of Buck Rogers has been in science fiction since its near beginning and he has been a hero for generations of fans due to Buck being reinvented and reworked throughout his history. I grew up with the Glen A. Larson vision of Buck Rogers that ran for two seasons on NBC from 1979-1981 that was developed to capitalized on the Star Wars popularity. As with any good sci-fi at the time, there had to be blasters, and there were a number of them. The one that I've always had a soft spot for is the Earth Defense Directorate DE blaster that fired yellow beams. This large blaster was more angler than the Colonial Warrior blasters from Glen A. Larson other TV show: Battlestar Galactica. There is very little about the blaster online and its seems that the props were about 12 inches in length and had a small push button trigger with the trigger possibly being tied to an light at the end of the barrel. Few of the actual props have been seen with several stunt props sellings. Some sites have cited poor quality of the hero props and that there were few hero props that exist.

Jim Reynor's Revolver Blaster from the Starcraft Universe
One of the most developed characters in the Starcraft universe is Jim Reynor. His character has an air of  ronin/space cowboy that is only reinforced by the fact that he used an massive revolver blaster that is called an “Colt Single Action”…which makes no sense in the 26th century.  Well designed and seen in the hands of some of the Terran Marines and other, these revolvers are in an enduring image of Starcraft and the blaster…expect this blaster is wielded by powered armor wearing space marines.
The Deep Sleep Operative Flame Gun from Logan's Run (1976)
One of the great sci-fi movies prior to the emergence of Star Wars was 1976’s Logan’s Run (a scene was filmed at the Water Gardens in Fort Worth, Texas!) and features one of the most popular sci-fi weapons in the hands of the Deep Sleep Operatives (AKA: the Sandmen).  In the original novel, the weapon is more of a sci-fi revolver with a six shot capacity and can hold different ammunition. The movie and TV series use a similar prop whose style was something of an hybrid between the ray gun and the blaster…but what makes the DS gun unique is its operation.  Unlike many other sci-fi weapons, the DS blaster’s muzzle burst was not a visual effect, but a practical one emitting from the prop itself. According to the extensive article by propmaster Richard Coyle, who may or may not be the designer of the DS flame gun prop itself, the greenish flame effect was generated by carbide gas and water via the trigger acting as the opener to the valve.
The issue with this working flame effect was that gas would leak, even in the screen used props.  Not only where there greenish flames, there was the genuine sound effects produced by the reaction.  Terrifying prop to be sure.  In the universe of Logan’s Run, the Deep Sleep Operatives used this powerful DE weapon that fired charged particles that had the power to kill with a single impact and fire 120 shots on a single charge. This weapon was the primary tool and mark of the Sandmen.  In the TV series, the power of the Flame Gun was altered to be censor friendly with power settings similar to the Trek Phaser.

The Bahauser M571 Armor Magnum Hand Cannon from Armored Trooper VOTOM
One of the most iconic military science fiction animes of all time is Armored Trooper VOTOM starring Scopedog powered armor pilot Chirio Cuvie. While the major of weapons are mecha-based, Chirio carries one of the most insane handguns in military science fiction mecha anime: the “Bahasuer M571 Armor Magnum”. This four-shot hand cannon is designed to function as an anti-APS weapons platform, allowing Chirio to take out powered armor with just hand gun that fires massive bullets into the weak spots of the various powered armor of VOTOM. He as also used on people as well. Talk about overkill! We will be discussing Armored Trooper VOTOM  in more detail on a future installment of Future War Stories From The East.

The Hand Cannons of the Destiny Universe
To its credit, the battered video game Destiny has a wide offering of weapons  to outfit your Titan, Hunter, and Warlock three weapons slots. In the primary weapons slot is an interesting class of weapon: “the hand cannon”. Similar in design to a large framed revolver, these futuristic blasters have massive up close power and are quickly reloaded via an cylinder that pops into the main housing of the weapon.
While they look cool and are certainly powerful, I’ve never relayed on an hand cannon as my primary for my female Hunter character and often go with my standard scout rifle instead, but everyone and awhile, it is nice wipe out the hand cannon and fell like an Space Cowboy badass.  Another form of the hand cannon is the Hunter’s solar powered “Golden Gun” available in the “Gunslinger” subclass. This is my favorite Super Ability to have and the powerful blast of the golden flaming hand cannon is nasty, especially in tense PvP: matches.

The Good Samaritan Revolver from The Hellboy Universe

Magic firearms are an interesting outgrowth of magical bladed weapons of fantasy or legends. The Good Samaritan massive revolver blaster from the Hellboy universe fits into the same ranks as the Caster from Outlaw Star. Given to our red-skinned hero as a young boy by the Touch of Liberty to deal with various supernatural and demonic assholes, the weapon and its ammunition are special beyond belief. Constructed from pieces of the True Cross, metal from church bells, and blessed; it is a holy weapon that fires holy bullets of a massive size and power. These bullets have magic loads and often made from special materials to deal with the special dark enemies Hellboy faces.

Ronon's Particle Magnum Blaster from Stargate Atlantis
During the second season of SG: Atlantis, we were introduced to the Satedan badass runner known as Ronon Dex played by equally badass Jason Momoa. Unlike his fellow SG Recon Team members, Ronon carried a directed energy large frame blaster, known as an “particle magnum”. Given this time as a runner, Ronon had picked up this powerful semi-automatic weapon randomly during his travels, but did not the origin of the weapon. Powered by a cylinder shaped power cell that was fitted into the dome assembly at the rear of the handgun, it could be set to three power levels: stun, kill, and incinerate.
With a one-shot kill ability, the particle magnum was a popular gun among the Atlantis security staff, but only Ronon possessed one…that was until the markers of the blaster were found. When John Shepard was taken by a nomadic human popular, called the Travelers, he learned the origin of the particle magnum was the standard handgun of the Travelers. I’ve always liked the particle magnum from SG:A, but I’ve always felt that the writing staff was trying a wee bit too hard with the character of Ronon and his handgun to make him the cool badass dude with being a more extreme version of Worf and Tyr Anasazi.

The Blaster from The Caves of Steel by Issac Asimov
The Caves of Steel novel was written back in 1954 and is still a great sc-fi book to behold and features the NYPD using some sort of DW blasters in this future world of underground cities, spacers, and robots. In the novel, an Spacer is murdered via an blaster and detective Baley carried an official use blaster. Some of the features of the weapon are explained, like the need for an "ignition bud" to have the weapon be charged and ready to use and that are fitted with radiation chambers. In the novel, the Spacer robot R. Daneel carried uncharged blaster to not violate the First Law of Robotics, especially when he points it at a crowd of rioting humans.
While the word blaster is used over and over again in the novel, there is no description of how the directed energy weapon looks, but there much given to its grim effect on the human body. The Spacer that was murdered was missing an chest after the blaster impact. Some of the cover art did feature the blasters used by R. Daneel and Baley, but most were more ray gun like than what we understand about blaster. However, given the similarities between The Caves of Steel and the movie BLADE RUNNER, some of the newer cover art, like the 1991 cover by noted sci-fi illustrator Stephen Youll. In Stephen Youll’s 1991 cover art piece, Elijah Bailey looks more like Rick Deckard and even sports a close copy of the 2019 blaster in his hand! In the Eastman Kodak Company Isaac Asimov's Robots VCR Mystery Game from 1988, you play along to solve the mystery of the murder of an Spacer before the wraith gets called down NYC. In the game, we see Detective Baley reload his service blaster with an green glowing tube from the "blaster charger station". Baley loads the green cylinder into the handle of the very basic sci-fi blaster prop. In the game, the blaster bolts are shown as bright neon green slow moving bolts.

The Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model "B" from the Firefly Universe

In the 25th century space western magnum opus Firefly and its accompanying feature 2005 film Serenity we see a number of futuristic firearms of all shapes and sizes. One of the best and lovingly designed is the handgun of Malcolm Reynolds: the Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model "B". This iconic sci-fi firearm was used by Mal throughout the series and the film in a style similar to an Old West gunslinger with an similar holster. According to Joss Whedon, Mal's space revolver-blaster was based on the .41 Volcanic Repeater pistol from 1855 and the prop was construction around an Taurus Model 85 .38 revolver with an brass sci-fi covering.
For the 2005 film, Mal's sidearm was slightly modified with an box magazine  There is little hard data on the blaster itself, including what it fires. However, in the 2005 film, Mal is seen loading the Model B before the bank heist with an small box-magazine loaded with a traditional looking bullet that is likely an .38 revolver round. Since Firefly, Mal's blaster has become an iconic of sci-fi firearms and the prop community.

The "Astro Automatic","Cosmogun",  and "Cosmo Dragoon" Blasters from the Leijiverse
It is widely known that the three major series developed by Leiji  Matsumoto ( Yamato, Galaxy Express 999, and Harlock) are connected and that they share stylistic elements as well. In fact, there were plans for Captain Harlock was to appear in the original Space Cruiser Yamato television series.  One of the technologically items that all three series share is an directed energy blaster whose original design predates the emergence of the Han Solo DL-44 blaster by three years.
The blaster would first be seen in the Space Cruiser Yamato film released in 1974 as well as the manga, released the same year.  In the hands of the good crew of the Yamato, it was known as the “astro automatic” in the English dub  and the “Cosmo Gun” in the original Japanese.  It was a pretty standard directed energy blaster at the time with an impressive militaristic design that was not a ray gun type. I’ve always felt that the astro automatic of Yamato/Starblazers was inspirited by the Imperial Japanese Nambu pistol of the 2nd World War while others believe it was based around the funky 8mm 1908 Hino-Komuro pistol.
When Yamato was finally given a live-action feature film in 2010, the astro automatic was featured, but in a more conventional form that mimicked the original design somewhat  but is rumored to be based around an airsoft Glock 26. Given Matsumoto penchant for recycling designs, the cosmo gun was restyled for inclusion in the Galaxy Express 999 and Harlock animes/mangas. In this more stylized form, called an “Cosmo Dragoon”, it was extreme powerful and rare weapon of which there was only five in the galaxy with one in the possession of Captain Harlock. These powerful handguns, also known as “the warrior’s gun” were constructed by Harlock’s running buddy Tochiro and where the only weapons able to kill the machine people like the human hunting-and-skinning Count Mecha.
The overall design of these very similar Leijiverse DEW blasters resemble the overall style of the Colt 1847 Walker or Colt 1848 Dragoon Cap-&-Ball revolvers and this could  be due to the 1972 western manga done by Matsumoto called Gun Froniter that featured some of the same characters as the space series. Even Tochiro said that he pattern the Cosmo Dragoon after Old West six-shooters. These have been favorite anime blasters and model kits and replicas have been made since the release of Space Cruiser Yamato that greatly varied.

The Cygnus Sentry Laser Blasters from Disney's The Black Hole (1979)
The massive success of 1977’s Star Wars launched a thousand greenlit sci-fi projects with other studios attempt to hit the iron while it was hot. Some were classics in their own right like ALIEN, some were cheap intimations like Battle Beyond the Planets and somewhere just odd…like Disney’s 1979 live-action sci-fi film The Black Hole. This was a film I grew up on and I have a soft spot for it, which includes the twin-barreled laser blaster used by the crew of the Palomino and the “robotic” sentries of the Cygnus.
This dual-emitter robotic sentry laser blaster was seen on-screen firing two beams of red directed energy and was often dual wielded by the sentries and the Palomino human crew during the climax of the film. The props themselves were a nice marriage of the ray gun and the blaster and the laser battle scenes were quite nice in the film. Since The Black Hole was following the tradition of Star Wars there was to be a major rollout of toys by Mego. Action figures, playsets, and even a role-play toy sentry laser blaster were going to be released. There was some release of the Mego Black Hole toyline in the United Kingdom around 1980 by Marx, but much of it never made to market. The action figures that were released did not feature the same iconic blaster design as the film and it seems that toy sentry laser pistol blaster was also unreleased. Pity.

Captain Blasto's Blaster from the 1998 Blasto PlayStation One video game
It would be criminal of me to not discuss the over-the-top space hero character of "Captain Blasto" from the 1998 PlayStation One 3rd person shooter video game Blasto. The title character is an space hero that would be more at home in a plup era sci-fi magazine or an episode of Futurama than the 1990's. Captain Blasto is a space hero of the Earth and lover to the babies of planet Uranus that takes out evil alien invaders from the 5th dimension with his trusty laser blaster. To me, he looked like the father of Spaceman Spiff from Calvin & Hobbes! Blasto's sidearm was a pretty normal blaster that tended more towards the ray gun blaster type than an DL-44. The blaster would be overcharged for a more powerful blast and it often took out most enemies in a few bolts of red energy. Prior to this game's release, there was heavy press and buzz about the game and the voice acting of Phil Hartman in the role of Captain Blasto himself. The game itself was developed by Sony and released by Sony to be an exclusive to their mega-hit, the PlayStation.
I can clearly remember this game being in development with it being heavily advertised in gaming stores and magazines followed by the released that hit with a thud.  I barely played Blasto on an ex-girlfriend's son's PSOne when I was in college back in 1998, and did not care much for the game. So, what happened to Captain Blasto? That is a sad story. The much-hyped game was panned by critics for being too difficult, and sales were only lukewarm with the praise for the voice-acting by Hartman being the best element of the game. There was rumors of an sequel in the works until Hartman was killed by his wife just six weeks after the games release...ending any hopes of a sequel. Sony even let the trademark for "Captain Blasto" slip...despite this and the length of time that has gone by, there is continued rumors of an sequel coming.    

The Earth Military EM-33 Plasma Blaster from ST:Enterprise
The universe of Star Trek has never been one that featured blasters in the traditional sense...besides the three mentioned on the list. One of the most forgotten Starfleet weapons that is a blaster is the EM-33 plasma pistol from Star Trek: Enterprise. This was only really featured in the hands of NX-01 personnel in the pilot episode "Broken Bow", when it was replaced with the phaser processor, the Phase-Pistol, but not before Cpt. Archer dual wielded some EM-33s in a firefight! Not much exists on in-universe explanation on this blaster save for the name and that it was used by Starfleet, the Earth Cargo Authority, and MACO.
With the missing history of this unique early Starfleet weapon compelling me, I designed and wrote an entire history behind the weapon and how it inspirited the 23rd century "assault phaser" and why the MACOs still use the EM-33. It was a labor of love. The prop itself was designed by Craig Binkley and Jim Martin, who designed the EM-33 around the Desert Eagle and the Jericho pistols. This makes the EM-33 a bit of interesting sci-fi weapon; it is an DE blaster that was based on one of the real-steel pistols that can be compared to an sci-fi blaster. This is one of my favorite Star Trek weapons.

The Cybernetic Soldier Pistol from Angel Cop

There have been three "waves" or invasions of Anime/Manga to America. The first began with works like Astroboy and Speed Racer, and ended around the time of Battle of the Planets, Gundam, and Starblazers. The second wave was during the 1980's, with works like ROBOTECH, Ulysses 31, Captain Harlock, and Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs. The 2nd Wave was also marked by the greater importation of VHS tapes, toys, models,and comics to the shores of America. The 2nd Wave was when I was kid, and was a great deal of fun. Today, we live in the 3rd Wave. During the crush of import titles via American distributors like US Manga Corps, Viz Media, and Manga, it seems that a little bit of everything was imported to the states to reap in the cash.
One of the titles was the pure-shit Angel Cop OVA. There no words how bad this anime is. Like many animes of the time, Japanese creators culled from BLADE RUNNER and other popular American works. In the 3rd episode of the OVA, mad scientist Dr. Ichihara whips out a pistol that appears to be an ugly mating of the M9 Beretta, the 2019 Blaster, and the Auto-9 from Robocop. According to the fucked up logic of Angel Cop, this pistol is for enhanced cybernetic bodies only, like Raiden, because...and get this shit...the gun's recoil is so high that it can break an normal human beings arm after two shots. There are handguns like this in the real-world, the .600 Nitro Express revolver being the best example. However, when Angel loads the arm-breaker, it is a relatively small magazine cartridge. During the finally part, Raiden dual-wields these pistols and Angel uses it as well to kill Raiden and Lucifer. Never watch this.

The Eternia Laser Blasters from The Masters of the Universe Live-Action Motion Picture (1987)
One of the iconic toylines of the 1980's was The Masters of the Universe, and an entire generation grew up playing in the oddball sci-fi/fantasy universe of He-Man and Skeletor. This included me. I had most of the original 1983 toyline which included Castle Greyskull. In addition to the toyline (because it was the 80's), there was an accompanying cartoon called He-Man and the Masters of the Universe that was equally popular in the early 1980's. Once again, an entire generation watched the adventures of He-Man & Company with the phase "I have the POWER!" being part of our daily lives, including me. Good times.
Naturally, this made The Masters of the Universe very popular and successful,a fact not lost on Mattel. From the very beginning of the development of MOTU toyline there was discussions about bring the struggle of good & evil on Eternia to the silver screen. In an odd twist, as Mattel was developing MOTU, producers of the Conan film were attempting to sell toy rights to their fantasy film. Given the surface similarity between Conan and He-Man, the Conan toy rights were rejected and Mattel began developing their own film to MOTU. Scripts were ordered to be targeted to adults and kids.
Unfortunately, the MOTU toyline was cooling down along with the genre of Sword & Sorcery by the time that film was in production by Orion Pictures. When the live-action film came out in 1987 it was too late, too odd, and too distant from the original source material alienating fans. It flopped in the theaters. I can remember the film coming out in 1987 and I was well beyond my He-Man days...and then there was the other incorporated element that made me question the film entirely: laser blasters that mimicked Star Wars being including into the MOTU. 
While there were some DEWs in the cartoon and toyline, it was more rooted in classic weapons of the Sword & Sorcery setting. When the film came out, He-Man battled the forces of Skeletor with both his sword and a trusty laser blaster that fired colorful bolts of blue. In these battles, red and blue directed energy bolts fly across the screen. So, why the hell are there blasters in the 1987 MOTU film? Originally, Mattel did not want He-Man to kill or harm anyone, leading to the incorporating of less violent beams of colorful light, reducing his use of his sword. Also, there was still the afterglow of the effect of Star Wars, and laser battles were still part of the sci-fi landscape. To help with this commandment, Skeletor's minions were these robot black armored stormtroopers that only served to distance the film from the original source material.
For the film, two main blaster pistols were produced: one for Skeletor's army and one for He-Man's forces. Among the blasters, there were variations, like Teela's.These fired different colors of directed energy and to their credit, the prop blasters were of good quality, design, and construction. For the overall design, the MOTU film blasters follow in the familiar footsteps of the Star Wars weaponry. Sadly, given their inclusion into The Masters of the Universe meant that these blasters are nearly lost to forgotten sci-fi history. In an odd twist of Hollywood trivia: the Captain of the NX-01 Enterprise actor is married to the actress that played Teela in the Masters of the Universe 1987 universe. Crazy.

The Earth Alliance Auricon  PPG from Babylon 5...is it even an blaster?
In terms of 1990's American TV science fiction, Babylon 5 was the other side of the coin to ST:DS9, and for some of us, B5 the better of the two. For four good season, B5 wove a tale of returning dark enemy, a Terran space station devoted to peace, and alien governments politics. It was a brave piece of sci-fi writing and storytelling. Throughout the show, there was one iconic piece of science fiction weaponry: the Earth Alliance PPG compact pistol. But, it is an blaster in the traditional sense? I thought it was worth devoting some space to examining the case of the B5 PPG. The Phased Plasma Gun was the standard DE sidearm of the Earth Alliance personnel that was manufactured by Auricon. The power cell, called an power cap, that feed the PPG seen in the series had a capacity based on the level of power chosen by the user. At maximum setting, only four shots were possible, while there was 20 shots at the standard setting. The PPG was a rather unique DEW seen in science fiction that was a hybrid of the Star Trek phaser and the Star Wars blaster that seemed to me to be patterned after the old-school police snub-nosed revolver preferred by detectives and police chiefs. Adding evidence to this, was that the on-screen used prop PPG used an real .38 revolver grip. This means that the PPG flies in the face of the traditional post-Star Wars blaster being a large-framed weapon, but it does maintain the use of energy (plasma) bolts. I think the case can be made that the PPG is one of the more unique weapons of modern sci-fi and while it may not be an space revolver, an phaser, or an blaster; it is in some ways all of them.

The Caster from Outlaw Star
Outlaw Star is one of the more famous (and popular!)of the  recent crops of animes  and is often compared to the legendary Cowboy Bebop. In this fusion of fantasy and space sci-fi, Outlaw Star features one of the most celebrated weapons of anime: the magic blaster Caster. In fact, Bennett the Saga even called the Caster “the best weapon in all of anime”. The term “Caster” was originally applied to users of Mana old magic, but the term is applied to a “spell gun” that fires magic shells of massive power and various loads. The Caster pistol seen in the hands of Gene Starwind is a relic and allows an non-wizard the ability to wield magic in the form of caster shells that house various offensive spells. While merely a vehicle for the magic ammunition, the Caster Blaster (rhyming  like Vanilla Ice!) is a breach-load, single-action large-frame pistol that is reserved for special encounters.  It is due to the rarity of the ammunition (shells that are numbered) that prevents the wider use of the Caster. Ammunition is always scarce and has to be acquired from special sources. 

The Standard Space Marine "blaster" Pistol from Quake II and Quake IV
In the realm of first person shooters rarely does the starting weapon, often a pistol, get much love or use after the first shotgun comes along...and its no different here. In the sequel to the Medieval Fantasy/Sci-fi darkgrim world of the original 1996 Quake, we get a total change in the story and setting with it being more conventional Military SF with you playing an normal space marine attempting to prevent an invasion by the Borg...I mean...the Strogg. Your beginning weapon is an oddball recharging blaster that fires a orange plasma bolt that has major kick to it given the amount the player jerks back. Once you scour new more powerful weapons, you leave it behind to be forgotten save for using as an DEW flashlight! The weak sauce blaster of the space marines makes another appearance in Quake IV which picks up the story of the Strogg vs. Terra. In this game, the blaster is more akin to a standard military sidearm that you would see in DOOM over the 2nd Quake game that is complete with tactical mounted flashlight. 

The BlasTech DL-18 Blaster from the Star Wars Universe
The most well known blaster manufactured by BlasTech Industries is the DL-44, there is another had received some attention from the Outer Rim: the DL-18. This more sleek blaster was cheaper than the DL-44 along with being more customizable. The longer barrel and the undermounted over-concentrated beam allowing for more penetration. This blaster is not as well known as some of the others in the SW movies, but it was featured repeatedly in Return of the Jedi in the hands of Jabba the Hutt's guards. Luke even Force-grabbed one off of an guard and aimed at the gang leader. It has been seen in SW: Battlefront and in SW: Rebels. I've always really liked the look of this blaster since ROTJ and it was packed into Jedi Luke figure I got in 1983 when ROTJ was in theaters and even featured on the packaging art. 
Since most of the Star Wars blaster pistols and rifles are constructed around a core real-steel weapon of some type...what is under the sci-fi covers of the DL-18? From my research, it seems an old West German air gun, the BSF S20 .177. Today, prop markers use secondhand BSF S20s for their props...but they can be hard to get, and some use the more common (and cheaper) Crosman American Classic .177 air pistol.

Detective Spooner's Chicago PD Duty Pistol from I, Robot (2004)
Okay, before we start in on this KEW blaster type pistol, I just have to say that fucking hate the 2004 I, Robot film. Hate it to the point that I wished it never existed. It is heresy of the original work and the film does not deserve to use the title of one of the founding classics of robot sci-fi literature. It is a paint-by-numbers story that lacks any magic of the original book. Okay, the Chicago Police Department standard issue sidearm blaster that seen in the film in the hands of Det. Spooner and other officers was constructed around an Taurus Model 85 .38 revolver that channeling the style of the PK-D blaster from BLADE RUNNER. Oddly, the weapon is portrayed as an magazine-fed weapon that chambered possibility an 9mm cartridge. The same revolver and similar prop construction were applied to Malcolm Reynolds Firefly handgun. 

Next Time on FWS...
The genre of Military SF comes in all forms and forges new fans through the various forms of media. For me, witnessing Mobile Suit Gundam and Starblazers at age two and three and then later, ROBOTECH all converted me into a lifelong fan of the genre via military science fiction anime. Via exploration of the genre since the founding of FWS, I discovered that there needed to a dedicated serial devoted to exploring and explaining the realm of anime military sci-fi. The first subject of this new serial is an relatively unknown 1980's "Real Robot/Mecha" centered MSF television series that descend from the success Mobile Suit Gundam: Fang of the Sun Dougram. While the series was never exported to the US market, the mecha was in the form of models and the designs that became "incorporating" into one of the great works of American 1980's military science fiction.     


  1. Did not expect to see something 2000AD related here. :-D
    Btw,have you considered covering some 2000AD strips,like Rogue Trooper or V.C.s?Or Bad Company,or Glimmer Rats,or ABC Warriors?Well,you get the picture.

  2. ABC Warriors and Rogue Trooper have both had a few entries here and there, I read them off and on during my collecting years. I would like to do a "Forgotten Classics" on both...but it would difficult given the size of both comics. Still looking into how to bring more from the realm of 2000AD.

    1. For ABC Warriors,I always suggest people to jump straight into Volgan War,since its something of a soft reboot.
      For Rogue Trooper,beginning is the the only place to start really.So Tales of Nu Earth v1 and see how it goes? :-)
      Or again,you could test the waters with something shorter like V.C.s or Glimmer Rats.
      Just suggesting.

  3. Excellent article except for the language.

  4. I hate the I robot movie as well.

  5. I wonder how much the weapon tech reflects the budget and tone of a film. Want fast and gritty? Use "gun-like" blasters so actors can move quickly and you don't need to line up beams of effects shots. Want futuristic "do anything" weapons? The beam emmiting phaser type weapon is for you! Actors have to be carefully blocked to line up the shots (or not, as has been mentioned on this site before, I believe) and the beam can do anything. Wound, paralyze, kill, disintegrate, heat up a rock, cut a door, etc. See Han Solo do any of that! :)

  6. I've never thought of that before, but it is true. Post-production SFX would be cheaper than having live-firing prop guns. Good point!

  7. That is true for specific points in time. Certainly NOW it is very true, to the point where I'm not sure ANY film still have working weapons on set, maybe a Michael Mann film. Everything is CGI, which allows for all those great John Wick face shots. But back in the 70-80's drawing laser beams on each frame of film had to be pretty expensive, so the faster the shot went the better. Cheap films back in the day had NO practical gun effect, just a foley sound and an actor simulating recoil )

  8. Great article (if really long!) with lots of cool examples. But I wanted to let you know: that picture you have for the "Colt Revolvers of the Trigun Unvierse" isn't from Trigun. The picture you have is from Shaman King (specifically page 159 of volume 24 if you're curious, and which I had to look up), and is a picture of the character Marco Lasso; I have no idea what gun he's using but it's probably somehow magical. I'm not saying that to criticize, but just as a heads-up, since seeing that got me a little confused.

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